Health & Life Sciences Update: July 3, 2019

Health & Life Sciences Update | July 3, 2019
Authors: Sunita Kapoor, Hai Pham, Aishwarya Murthy and Rachel Forrest
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
  • August 26-30, Cambodia: 14th ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting
  • October 28 – November 1, Thailand: 28th Pharmaceutical Product Working Group (PPWG) Meeting
  • November/December 2019: Joint Meeting between ASEAN Senior Officials’ on Youth and Senior Officials’ Meeting on Health Development
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Reforming Vietnam's Decree 54
Vietnam's Decree 54, implemented on July 1, 2017, mandates that foreign pharmaceutical companies with approved licenses from the Ministry of Health (MOH) may directly import products to local companies and partners. The Decree additionally amends previous licensing procedures, requiring foreign pharmaceutical companies to sell products through a local distributor provided these investors prove a specific level of trade experience. Currently, Decree 54 restricts foreign companies from providing transportation and warehousing services on their own. This requirement is particularly detrimental to pharmaceutical companies as they have the critical knowledge and technical expertise to set appropriate storage and transportation conditions for their products, and these conditions are often specific to the type of product. Pharmaceutical companies need the autonomy to set these conditions themselves in order to preserve the safety and quality of their products, especially drugs. The requirement of foreign companies having to operate though a local distributor only further complicates the import process through an addition of dispensable intermediary steps, specifically partnering with local enterprises.

Decree 54 and related draft implementing circulars create unnecessary barriers and restrictions for foreign pharmaceutical companies to operate in Vietnam by effectively depriving Foreign Invested Enterprises of a viable operating model. The effects of this regulation have arguably disrupted the predictable and timely supply of medicines and vaccines to Vietnamese patients, and increased risks to patient safety, as domestic companies do not yet have the capabilities to provide warehousing and transportation services to meet the industry standards required. As a result, most foreign pharmaceutical companies today still operate in Vietnam under Representative Office (RO) status, and are looking forward to a clear legal framework to transition to Foreign-invested Enterprise (FIE) status in line with Decree 54 requirements.

On December 31, 2018, the Vietnamese Government issued a new decree -- Decree 155, which will revise regulations under Decree 54. The new decree aims to help simplify and expedite labeling, certification and licensing processes for drug imports and medical equipment for foreign businesses. With this decree in place, the Vietnamese government anticipates that it will incentivize more foreign companies to enter its market, which has grown 10% annually and is expected to continue its double-digit growth over the next 5 years. However, lack of clarity still remains on warehousing technical requirements, as well as FIE licensing process and timing. Pharmaceutical companies continue to work with the Vietnamese Government on clarifying Decree 54 and Decree 155 in order to secure supply integrity, operate effectively and compliantly, and continue to invest in Vietnam.

Malaysia Implements a New Sugar Tax
On July 1, the Government of Malaysia implemented its new sugar tax, which taxes the import and manufacturing of packaged sugary beverages. The tax itself will affect soft drinks with 5g/100ml of added sugar, as well as fruit and vegetable-based drinks containing more than 12g/100ml of sugar, at a rate of 40 sen per liter. The tax will provide a 2-month transitional period to allow for businesses to adjust.

The tax is intended to support Malaysia’s initiatives towards achieving improved nation-wide health. Malaysia is reported to house the largest population suffering from diabetes in Asia, as well as the largest proportion of obese and overweight population in Asia. The tax may additionally provide social benefits as the revenue will be allotted to provide free and healthy breakfast programs for students. According to the tax standard, substantial government revenue will not be generated through the tax if corporations adjust products, and officials argue that the tax will instead provide greater holistic benefits to society through the minimization of medical costs related to the over consumption of sugar.

The implementation of this sugar tax by the Government of Malaysia follows the regional trend seen in recent years by its neighbors. Just last year, the Philippine Government implemented a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as part of its TRAIN 1 economic reform. In Vietnam, the Ministry of Finance has also been proposing a special consumption tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. These taxes, if not structured with careful consideration, may have unintended on trade as well as local industries. It remains to be seen how beverage companies in Malaysia will adjust and how prices of soft drinks will ultimately be affected.

Singapore Opens New Experimental Drug Development Centre
On June 26, the opening ceremony for the new Experimental Drug Development Centre (EDDC) at the Biopolis in Singapore, was officiated by Mr. Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance and Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore.

The EDDC is a national platform for drug discovery and development in order to channel high potential drug candidates towards realizing commercial outcomes for Singapore, as well as clinical outcomes that will benefit Singaporeans. The EDDC integrates A*STAR's Experimental Therapeutics Center (ETC), the clinical development unit known as Drug Discovery and Development (D3), and the Experimental Biotherapeutics Center (EBC). The Centre will leverage Singapore's competitive advantage in melding biomedical sciences, clinical medicine and engineering, to bring early drug targets to first-in-man clinical trials. Additionally, Singapore's investments in biomedical sciences have been making steady progress, with made-in-Singapore cancer drug candidate now moving into clinical trials and commercialization. The biomedical sciences sector has also seen a positive growth trajectory of domestic biomedical companies. Singapore now has close to 100 local biotech companies, which collectively contributed more than US$350 million in deal flows in 2018 alone. In 2017, Singapore's three largest biotech companies were reported to have an estimated collective valuation of more than US$1 billion.

Furthermore, Singapore's drug development efforts have been given additional momentum with the introduction of new platforms, and a grant scheme for drug discovery and development. These national platforms aim to bridge the gaps between basic science research and pharmaceutical enterprises. They will also serve as a catalyst for collaboration across industry, research institutes, academia, and hospitals; as well as nurture a strong pool of scientific talent for Singapore's biomedical ecosystem. Moreover, with a growing Asian market and a predominantly ethnic-Asian population in Singapore, there are opportunities for Singapore to differentiate itself by focusing on novel therapeutics for Asian-prevalent diseases.

Tech Start-Ups Bringing Healthcare to Rural Areas in Indonesia
Indonesia's healthcare system has been challenged by a multitude of problems including economic issues, substandard quality, shortage and disproportional dispersion of qualified medical personnel and poor access due to its large geographic area. While those who can afford to outsource their treatment to neighboring Singapore or Malaysia, those who live in remote or rural areas have far more limited options. However, the recent growing prevalence of healthcare startups are applying innovative strategies to address these issues.

These health-tech startups overcome geographic restrictions and allow for greater accessibility, connecting patients with doctors, insurance, labs, and pharmacies in one mobile app. Additionally, it provides a network of 19,000 licensed doctors and 1,000 partner pharmacies via medical delivery service and licensed medical lab services. Additionally, users can communicate with medical professionals via chat, video and voice call. Currently, the health-tech start-ups with the greatest presence in Indonesia are Halodoc, Alodokter, TeleCTG, Tanyadok, and K24Klik and more information about each one can be found here.

Vietnam – A Model For Universal Healthcare Coverage
As part of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), effectively almost every country globally has committed to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030. Vietnam is among those leading the pack, with 87.7% of its population (83.6 million people) covered by health insurance. Additionally, according to the latest Global Monitoring Report on UHC published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, 97% of Vietnamese children now receive standard immunizations, which is higher compared to 95% of children in the United States. Moreover, the country's maternal mortality rate has fallen by 75% since 1990. Vietnam has succeeded in achieving impressive milestones ahead of schedule, despite having an average per capita income only US$2,342 as per 2017.

The key to Vietnam's success is its strategic approach addressing how the government uses its resources, including the country's intellectual capital. This can be seen in the Ministry of Health’s Direction of Healthcare Activities scheme, which essentially requires health facilities at the central and provincial levels of government administration to help build up the capacity of district and community facilities. A key objective of this scheme is to transfer more of the responsibilities of delivering medical services from higher-level hospitals to lower-level primary health-care facilities.

Furthermore, acknowledging the deep disparities and inequalities in health outcomes between urban and rural areas historically, the Vietnamese still often prefer to bypass their local health-care centers in favor of major hospitals in urban centers. This in turn forms inefficiencies in the healthcare system and increases out-of-pocket costs for patients and their families, without any guarantee of quality care. Therefore, beyond ensuring that community health facilities can offer affordable, quality care, there is a need to change public perceptions. Families need to trust that they can get a dependable diagnosis of malaria, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or diabetes locally, as well as necessary medications and other treatments. This can be done by health facilities strengthening their relationships with local communities, and most importantly providing a quality level of services that satisfies patients.
 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Philippines’ Plans to Expand the Maximum Drug Retail Pricing (MDRP)
On June 24 the Council submitted a letter to the Philippines Department of Health (DOH) regarding the government’s intention of broadening price regulation to cover 1,154-2,394 (26-54%) out of the 4,473 drug preparations available in the Philippine market in June 2019. The DOH also seeks to amend the Cheaper Medicines Act (CMA) to make price regulation the central tool to lower prices of medicines instead of market competition and dynamics. The letter highlighted the two primary concerns of the MDRP as greater market uncertainty and disincentivizing innovation. 

The Council made three key recommendations:

  1. Recalibration of focus between reducing prices and fostering a secure business environment
  2. Re-evaluation of the MDRP framework
  3. Need for long-term, sustainable policies
As the Philippines economy is expected to continue on its expansionary path, access to effective, efficient and equitable healthcare is increasingly important for citizens. The purpose of this letter is to offer the U.S. private sector views regarding the planned implementation of the Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) policy. The final version of the letter sent to the DOH is available here for your viewing. For more information, please contact Sunita Kapoor at skapoor@usasean.org.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Mekong Delta region steps up efforts to combat African swine fever

ASEAN
ASEAN urged fund health care to minimize out-of-pocket spending

Brunei
Govt committed to enhancing workplace safety nationwide

Cambodia
Hundreds of children in hospital with dengue, National, Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian Authorities Destroy Over Two Tonnes of Illicit Drugs and Related Substances
Tanncam buys 65% Vibe stake

Indonesia
KPAI: E-Cigarette Possibly Exposes Children to Illegal Drugs
Experts, activists renew call to decriminalize drugs
Rabies: 40 pct of samples tested positive for disease, vaccination a must for pets
Gov't Roots Out Online Cigarette Ads
MUI Issues Fatwa Regarding Organ Transplants
FAO, Antara deliver briefing on animal-to-human diseases in Indonesia

Laos
UK provides over 36 billion kip for UXO clearance
Laos confirms first cases of African swine fever
British expertise advances Lao research

Malaysia
‘Too early to know impact of new sugar tax on manufacturers, consumers’
Health Ministry pulls two bottled water brands off shelves
Sugar tax implementation poised to reduce medical costs: Mata
Malaysia’s new sugar tax kicks in today – and it affects juice and vegetable-based drinks too
‘Kuala Koh infant mortality rate higher than national average’
Malaysia proposes softening drug laws
Health ministry sets up special committee to study control over e-cigarettes
We should welcome sugar tax
Sugar tax kicks off today
Customs: Two-month transition period as sugar tax comes into effect
Many to drink less soda
Malaysia schools shut after children fall sick

Myanmar
Over 3,000 dengue cases, 12 deaths recorded nationwide since January

Philippines
Corporate regulator OK’s more IPO plans of hospital group
DOJ set to resume Dengvaxia hearings
Medical marijuana bill refiled at House
Recto to push for ‘One Town, One Doctor’ bill
Price controls on drugs are not a good idea
Metro Pacific Hospital makes tender offer for shares in Makati Medical owner
UHC law a big leap towards reforming health care system: NEDA
PhilHealth withdraws accreditation of WellMed Dialysis Center in QC
Lacson bares Duque’s ‘conflict of interest’

Singapore
Lonza to buy drug production facility in Switzerland from Novartis
ISEC Healthcare calls for trading halt pending announcement
Insurance linked to high medical inflation: Experts
IEV Holdings in talks to diversify into healthcare business
Novena Global Lifecare to set up US$150m Sino-Singapore healthcare fund
Singapore ranked No. 3 in survey on use of AI in healthcare
Weekly dengue cases in Singapore spike to highest in more than 3 years

Thailand
Genomic Medicine Increasing In Thailand
Private hospitals briefed on notification of drug prices, medical fees
Tests find food supplements laced with dangerous drugs sold online
Smoking at home to be banned
Health Ministry postpones pot farm plan
Dengue fever epidemic declared

Vietnam
Radioactive substance shortage takes toll on PET/CT scanning in Ho Chi Minh City
First fixed blood donation site opens in Hà Nội’s Old Quarter
Gaining the trust of people is more important than vaccination records
Top legislator hails UNICEF’s support of child protection in Việt Nam
WB loan to help improve grassroots health services in Việt Nam
Roads may be rare in this Vietnamese commune, but immunization rate tops 97%
New M&A boom in Vietnam's pharmaceutical sector
Time for locals to enjoy export-quality food
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Mekong Delta region steps up efforts to combat African swine fever Voice of Vietnam 27th Jun 2019
Despite taking drastic measures in the fight against African swine fever (ASF), the epidemic has spread further throughout the Mekong Delta region. Aside from Ben Tre province, other provinces in the region have reported the ASF epidemic while other localities still encountered difficulties in dealing with the outbreaks. Provinces have been forced to cull all infected pigs as well as tightening control over the trading and transportation of pigs and pork products in their area. Hau Giang province has recorded some 200 cases of ASF outbreaks in all of their districts and towns with more than 6,000 infected pigs being culled. Chau Thanh district has been the hardest hit by the epidemic with nearly 100 outbreaks while some 2,100 infected pigs in the area have been forced to be culled. According to Tong Hoang Khoi, Chairman of the Chau Thanh district People’s Committee, the locality has faced difficulties in finding appropriate locations to bury the pigs due to a shortage of land. Currently, only 12 per cent of the total pig flocks in the province have been raised under bio-safety measures, causing difficulties when enacting preventive measures.

ASEAN

ASEAN urged fund health care to minimize out-of-pocket spending | BusinessWorld Business World 17th Jun 2019
THE EU-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) recommended that ASEAN countries address the issue of funding health care, as the healthcare protection gap remains an issue in the region. In its “Driving Comprehensive Healthcare Policy in ASEAN” report, EU-ABC said on Monday, “While households face a health protection gap, the rising costs in healthcare provision poses a material threat to the sustainability of the healthcare system for governments. As reflected in the large healthcare protection gap, healthcare is underfunded in ASEAN.”

Brunei

Govt committed to enhancing workplace safety nationwide – Borneo Bulletin Online 26th Jun 2019
The government is committed to boosting and strengthening workplace safety and health at all workplaces nationwide, and the establishment of the Safety, Health and Environment National Authority (SHENA) further demonstrates this drive, said Permanent Secretary (Energy) at the Ministry of Energy, Manpower and Industry (MEMI) Haji Azhar bin Haji Yahya yesterday. The BIG Forum was organised to serve as an interactive platform for SHENA to interface on workplace safety matters with stakeholders including government representatives, members of statutory bodies, educational institutions, industry players and other interested parties. SHENA endeavours to remain aligned with the nation’s Vision 2035 aspirations, a vision highlighted further during the forum with its four themes: Asset integrity, Work at Height Activities, Lifting Operations, and Schools and Buildings.

Cambodia

Hundreds of children in hospital with dengue, National, Phnom Penh Post The Phnom Penh Post 27th Jun 2019
A serious dengue fever epidemic is affecting Cambodia, with nearly 600 children hospitalised in the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals on Monday alone, a statement posted on the Kantha Bopha Foundation’s official Facebook page said on Wednesday. Because Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals provide free medical care, many parents take their children to one of its hospitals when they suspect their children may have dengue. The Kantha Bopha Foundation has daily records of the number of children receiving medical treatment at all its five hospitals. “Figures from the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals on Monday, June 17, indicated that 4,305 sick children have been examined and treated at the outpatient sections and 2,990 children with serious illnesses were hospitalized."

Cambodian Authorities Destroy Over Two Tonnes of Illicit Drugs and Related Substances Agence Kampuchea Presse 26th Jun 2019
More than two tonnes of illicit drugs and related chemical substances have been destroyed at Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition in Phnom Penh this morning. The event took place under the presidency of Samdech Kralahom Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, on the occasion of the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking (June 26). Moreover, Samdech Sar Kheng called on all stakeholders to further support the rehabilitation of drug addicts.

Tanncam buys 65% Vibe stake Phnom Penh Post 28th Jun 2019
Tanncam Investment Co Ltd, an Uzbek-owned investment group registered in Cambodia with holdings in the healthcare, e-commerce, consulting, and food and beverage sectors, has acquired a 65 per cent stake in Vibe Cafe Hospitality, a press release said on Monday. Vibe Cafe Hospitality is Cambodia’s leading vegan and health food restaurant group with two outlets in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap. In addition to vegan and health food restaurants, the group is a wholesale distributor of its proprietary products, a leading provider of rejuvenating cleansers and lunchboxes, and an innovator in unique health food and vegan recipes. As part of the agreement, Tanncam will inject additional capital to accelerate the franchising opportunity, according to Fountain.

Indonesia

KPAI: E-Cigarette Possibly Exposes Children to Illegal Drugs Tempo 26th Jun 2019
The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) commissioner for health and psychotropic drugs and addictive substances (NAPZA) field, Sitti Hikmawati, said that electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes increased the possibility of children to be exposed to illegal drugs and NAPZA. “E-cigarette is a significant entrance gate [of children's exposure to drugs],” said Sitti when Antara reached on Wednesday, June 26. Sitti explained e-cigarettes use or vaping cause harmful impacts on the body's health and children’s growth as other dangerous substances. She mentioned that vape user highly rose to 2.2 million people in 2019 from last year’s 1.2 million people. Therefore, she asserted, the high number of vape users must be concerned as it also increased children’s exposure to smoking e-cigarettes, and a traditional tobacco cigarette as well. Even adults could be easily exposed.

Experts, activists renew call to decriminalize drugs The Jakarta Post 25th Jun 2019
Legal experts and activists are launching fresh campaigns calling for the decriminalization of drugs so that users can skip the criminal prosecution stage and be conferred with more humane punishments. “The war against drugs must follow a health-oriented approach, while treatment for drug users should be more humane and in accordance with their respective wrongdoings. The key is: provide support and do not punish,” Samsu Budiman, Brotherhood of Indonesian Drug Victims (PKNI) chairman, said at the launch of Anomali Kebijakan Narkotika (Anomalies in Narcotics Policy), a book written by narcotics experts and activists dedicated to reforming narcotics policy, on Sunday. In reality, however, there is a tendency among law enforcers to prioritize imposing criminal law in punishing drug users rather than focusing on medical treatment for the advancement of public health.

Rabies: 40 pct of samples tested positive for disease, vaccination a must for pets Borneo Post Online 18th Jun 2019
KUCHING: Rabies remains a major problem in the state, as eight out of 20 samples received by the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory collected from Kuching, Bau and Serian divisions as of the first week of June tested positive for rabies. The eight samples which came back rabies positive were from Kampung Ranchan Bunuk (Serian), Kampung Sumpas, Balai Ringin (Serian), Bayang Estate, Off Lorong Wan Alwi (Kuching), Block 3, Jalan Muhibbah (Kuching), Halaman Kim San, Jalan Bampfylde (Kuching), Lorong Bowood 2A1, Taman Bowood (Kuching), Jalan Chawan (Kuching), and Jalan Semeba, Batu 5, Jalan Penrissen (Kuching). “All positive cases were detected within a 10-kilometre radius of the designated rabies infected area. Most of the animals found to be rabies positive were never vaccinated against the disease. Therefore, DVSS would like to urge the public to vaccinate all their dogs against rabies in order to protect their pets and family members,” Department of Veterinary Services Sarawak (DVSS) director Dr Adrian Susin Ambud said in a press statement dated June 14. Dr Adrian said DVSS would continue to conduct rabies eradication programmes including mass vaccinations, awareness campaigns, surveillance and monitoring of the disease situation in Sarawak. To date, a total of 119,873 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies since 2017.

Gov't Roots Out Online Cigarette Ads Jakarta Globe 14th Jun 2019
The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has banned all cigarette advertisements on the internet in a bid to suppress the number of youth smokers. The decision was made following a request from Health Minister Nila Moeloek to take down all tobacco-related ads which are ubiquitous on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, and also on online games and websites.

MUI Issues Fatwa Regarding Organ Transplants Tempo 19th Jun 2019
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa overseeing cases regarding organ transplants from specific cases where a living donor donates or sells their organs. In its decision, MUI decided that such practice should not be done if it does not follow the following rules. MUI argues that human organs are beyond proprietary items (haqqul miliki) which is why organ transplantation – that is not based on the Islamic Sharia law – is deemed haram.

FAO, Antara deliver briefing on animal-to-human diseases in Indonesia - ANTARA News Antara News 19th Jun 2019
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)'s Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) is working with the Indonesian News Agency, Antara, to explain the nation’s media about the challenges related to dealing with the zoonosis in Indonesia. FAO ECTAD's Chief Technical Advisor Luuk Schoonman explained that zoonotic diseases, which are diseases transmitted from animals to humans or vice versa, can affect food security and livelihoods of the people.

Laos

UK provides over 36 billion kip for UXO clearance Vientiane Times 25th Jun 2019
The United Kingdom government will provide grant aid worth 36 billion kip (US$4,274,709) for clearing Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) and developing capacity in the UXO sector of Laos. The funding will be provided to HALO Trust and Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) to support UXO clearance in Savannakhet, and a capacity development project under the National Regulatory Authority (NRA) for the UXO sector in Laos and the provincial NRA offices in Saravan, Champassak, Xekong and Attapeu.

Laos confirms first cases of African swine fever The Straits Times 20th Jun 2019
Laos has reported its first cases of African swine fever (ASF), confirming outbreaks in the southern province of Saravane, the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) said on Thursday (June 20). The South-east Asian country reported seven outbreaks of ASF in villages in Saravane, which led to the deaths of 973 animals, the OIE said on its website, citing information from Laos'agriculture ministry.

British expertise advances Lao research Vientiane Times 14th Jun 2019
Prof Paul Newton has spent the last 20 years carrying out ground-breaking tropical medicine research at the Lao Oxford Mahosot Hospital Wellcome Research Unit (LOMWRU) in Vientiane, which he founded. This week he returns to the UK, where he will continue his research work as a professor at the University of Oxford.

Malaysia

‘Too early to know impact of new sugar tax on manufacturers, consumers’ Borneo Post Online 2nd Jul 2019
It is too early to tell if the new tax on sugary drinks would affect both beverage manufacturers and consumers in the state, says Kuching Coffee Shop and Restaurant Owners Association chairman Teo Giat Liew. “If our association members feel that the tax is too heavy and they decide to pass the cost of the sugar tax to consumers, we cannot stop them from doing so,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday. “This move in the long run will definitely add cost to the current goods, but again it depends on the margin set by traders on whether it is under profiteering or vice versa,” Michael Tiong said.

Health Ministry pulls two bottled water brands off shelves The Star Online 1st Jul 2019
Two brands of bottled water have been pulled from the shelves after several samples were found contaminated with bacteria commonly found in faeces, soil and sewage. The Health Ministry said that the Starfresh and Waterfuns brands were found to contain pseudomonas aeruginosa, which contravenes the Food Act 1983 and the Food Act Regulations 1985. The company also said it would voluntarily recall other brands it produced, namely Iceberg, Sukahati, Rofina, Dixy Green and Dixy Blue. "The Ministry would like to advise those who have purchased the bottled water with the brands and expiry dates not to consume them," said its director general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement on Monday (July 1).

Sugar tax implementation poised to reduce medical costs: Mata www.thesundaily.my 1st Jul 2019
The implementation of sugar tax in Malaysia which kicked off today will not generate significant revenue for the government but will help in reducing the medical cost arising from the unhealthy habits of consuming excessive sugar, said the Malaysian Association of Tax Accountants (Mata). President Datuk Abdul Aziz Abu Bakar said the existing excise duty imposed on cigarettes, alcohol and others was meant to avoid health issues among the people. “The government will not get much revenue from the manufacturers because in any country that introduced soda tax, the manufacturers will change their product mix so that they can produce products that can avoid having to pay the sugar tax,” he said to Bernama today. “The people must understand that they (the government) has taken (this) into consideration and the government has given ample time for the business community to adjust themselves and the opportunity for them to plan their strategy in terms of products and production methods.

Malaysia’s new sugar tax kicks in today – and it affects juice and vegetable-based drinks too Business Insider Malaysia 1st Jul 2019
In a step towards addressing the problem of obesity in Malaysia, the Government has implemented a new sugar tax which will take effect starting Monday (July 1). The sugar tax will also be imposed on carbonated, flavoured and other non-alcoholic beverages. Any juice and vegetable-based drink containing more than 12g of sugar per 100ml will also be hit by a 40 sen excise duty, The Malaysian Reserve reported. According to The Star,the Customs Department announced on Sunday that the business community will be given a two-month transition period from July 1 to August 31 to implement the sugar tax. According to New Straits Times, the revenue collected from the excise duty will be used to provide free and healthy breakfast programmes for pupils.

‘Kuala Koh infant mortality rate higher than national average’ Loh Foon Fong 1st Jul 2019
The infant mortality rate of Orang Asli in Kampung Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, Kelantan, is significantly higher than the national average and lack of accessible healthcare is a major reason, says anthropologist Dr Aya Kawai. Aya, from Chiba University in Japan, carried out studies on the Bateq tribe there from 2011 to 2012 and found that there were seven infant deaths out of 19 total births, which is 36.8%, much higher than the national rate of 0.64% in 2012.“Most of them don’t have vehicles. Maybe one car or none at all. They cannot use taxis or GrabCar,” said Aya, who spoke on “Demo­graphic Aspects of the Bateqs of Kuala Koh in 2011 and 2012” at a panel discussion on “What has led to the Kuala Koh catastrophe?” through video conferencing on Friday evening. The nearest hospital for them was 75km away, while the nearest clinic in Aring 1 was about an hour by car.While there are some good doctors, many of the Bateq people are frightened of going to see a doctor because they encounter extreme racism in hospitals,” he said. Anthropologists call this “structural violence”, where one has a lower chance of surviving due to the lack of healthcare, which is in turn caused by institutionalised problems, he said.

Malaysia proposes softening drug laws The Jakarta Post 28th Jun 2019
Malaysia has proposed removing criminal penalties for possession and use of drugs in small amounts, a move medical groups said will help addicts break a "cycle of imprisonment and poverty". If narcotics are decriminalized, it would be a rare step in a region where many governments hand down harsh punishments for drug-related crimes. Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad announced the government was set to introduce the "significant game-changer policy" of decriminalizing drugs. The move is a crucial step "towards achieving a rational drug policy that puts science and public health before punishment and incarceration," he said in a statement on Thursday. Earlier this week, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that most of the 70,000 prisoners in Malaysia were drug addicts. 

Health ministry sets up special committee to study control over e-cigarettes Malaymail 27th Jun 2019
A special committee under the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been set up to examine issues relating to control over electronic cigarettes and vape. “The task force committee is headed by Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye to ensure commitment to all that we are dealing with this issue seriously,” he said. The convention was organised to raise public awareness on the side effects of smoking which is responsible for six million deaths in the world. Dzulkefly said the number of premises inspected from December until June 2, including the “Ops Khas’ carried out on May 24 and 25 were 111,042, out of which 26,357 premises did not display the ‘no-smoking’ sign.

We should welcome sugar tax The Star Online 20th Jun 2019
THE Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) applauds the government’s decision to implement a sugar tax beginning July this year. As reported, a 40 sen per litre tax would be imposed on soft drinks, flavoured and other non-alcoholic beverages with more than 5g of sugar or sugar-based sweetener per 100ml. A 40 sen per litre tax will be imposed on juice or vegetable-based drinks with more than 12g of sugar per 100ml. THE Malaysia Consumers Movement (MCM) applauds the government’s decision to implement a sugar tax beginning July this year. As reported, a 40 sen per litre tax would be imposed on soft drinks, flavoured and other non-alcoholic beverages with more than 5g of sugar or sugar-based sweetener per 100ml. A 40 sen per litre tax will be imposed on juice or vegetable-based drinks with more than 12g of sugar per 100ml. Consumers are generally unhappy with the implementation of sugar tax, as it tends to increase the price of sugary drinks and other products. There are currently some 3.6 million Malaysians suffering from diabetes, the highest rate of incidence in Asia and one of the highest in the world. It has also been reported that Malaysia is Asia’s fattest country with approximately half of the population being overweight or obese.

Sugar tax kicks off today The Star 1st Jul 2019
PETALING JAYA: Licensed importers of sweetened beverages must come up with a letter of undertaking and also submit lab reports, says the Customs Department. If the total sugar content of their drinks exceeds the threshold or if the reports are not submitted, the importers will need to make payment of the duties involved.

Customs: Two-month transition period as sugar tax comes into effect The Star Online 30th Jun 2019
PETALING JAYA: The "sugar tax" for the import and manufacturing of ready-to-drink packaged sweetened beverages starts on Monday (July 1), and the business community will be given a two-month transition period for its implementation.

Many to drink less soda Hemananthani Sivanandam 30th Jun 2019
Over half of Malaysians surveyed in a poll say they would drink less soft drinks once the sugar tax, a move by the government to cut down the obesity level in Asia’s fattest country, kicks in tomorrow. The poll conducted by international survey agency YouGov for The Star found that 59% out of the 1,022 respondents said they would drink less soft drinks while 13% said they would stop drinking sugary beverages. Only 25% said they would continue to drink the same amount while 3% said they would in fact drink more. The poll also noted that 64% of those surveyed were aware of the introduction of the excise duty for sweetened beverages announced by Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng during the tabling of Budget 2019 last year. Lim had announced the excise duty for sweetened beverages at 40 sen per litre on two categories of ready-to-drink packaged sweetened drinks. The beverages include carbonated drinks containing added sugar or flavored, and other sweetening matter which contains sugar exceeding 5g per 100ml.

Malaysia schools shut after children fall sick BBC News 25th Jun 2019
More than 400 schools in the Malaysian state of Johor are closed after 75 students experienced breathing difficulties and vomiting. Schools in the industrial area of Pasir Gudang have been shut until Thursday as authorities investigate the latest air pollution incident to hit the state. In March about 4,000 people - mostly children - fell ill after chemical waste was illegally dumped in a river. Authorities say the incidents are not linked. More than 100 primary and secondary schools as well as 300 private kindergartens were among those ordered to be temporarily shut this week, reported state news agency Bernama.

Myanmar

Over 3,000 dengue cases, 12 deaths recorded nationwide since January Global New Light Of Myanmar 18th Jun 2019
In the six months since January, 3,144 cases of dengue fever and 12 deaths have been reported across the nation. Of the total number of deaths, 8 have been recorded in Yangon Region, according to the region’s Public Health Department. Between January and mid-June, Yangon Region reported 734 cases of the mosquito-borne disease, the highest number of dengue cases in the country. In 2018, there were 3,649 dengue cases and 25 deaths in Yangon Region. “When we conducted a survey on dengue deaths in 2018, we found that over 60 per cent of the patients had received medical treatment at private clinics one day after they caught the fever,” said Dr. Tun Myint, the Deputy Director-General of the Yangon Region Public Health Department. He called for cooperation from private clinics in providing timely information about dengue cases to reduce the incidence of the disease in the region. He urged medical superintendents of hospitals to release the required directives to allow collection of information on dengue cases from private clinics. The ministry, along with other concerned ministries, will carry out a campaign to fumigate, and remove and clean water to prevent larvae from breeding and to educate the people. Dengue fever mostly occurs in the months of June, July, and August in the rainy season.

Philippines

Corporate regulator OK’s more IPO plans of hospital group Business World 1st Jul 2019
Three more members of the Allied Care Experts (ACE) Medical Group secured clearance from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for their respective initial public offerings (IPO) worth up to P1 billion each. In a statement, the country’s corporate regulator said it has approved the registration statement of ACE Medical Center Gensan, Inc.; ACE Dumaguete Doctors, Inc. and ACE Medical Center Bohol, Inc. at its June 27 en banc meeting. ACE Medical Center Gensan has applied for the registration of 228,000 shares, with the plan to offer 36,000 common shares in blocks of 10. The first 600 blocks will be issued at P200,000 per block, the next 1,600 blocks will be sold for P250,000 per block, the next 800 blocks will be offered at P300,000 each, while the remaining 600 blocks will be at P400,000 each. The company will use the expected P987.93-million proceeds from the offering for the construction of ACE Center-Gensan starting next month. The six-storey facility will have 200 beds in Barangay Lagao, General Santos City, and is envisioned to be a Level 2, multidisciplinary specialty medical facility.

DOJ set to resume Dengvaxia hearings Manila Bulletin News 1st Jul 2019
The Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to resume next week the conduct of its preliminary investigation over the third batch of complaints concerning the deaths of 13 persons who received shots of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. After more than a month, the panel of prosecutors chaired by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Arnold Magpantay is scheduled to hold a hearing this July 11.The panel will determine on July 11 whether to submit the case for resolution. The complaints concern the deaths of 13 persons who got inoculated with the vaccine, namely, Senior Police Officer 2 Vicente Arugay Jr. and children Crezel Ann Joy Viaros, Adeline Castroverde, Wiljen Alcontin, Eleazar Brigoli Jr., Trishanne Asona, EJ Christian Apa, Joanina Cortes, Gladimier Juevesano, Kianah Mae Racuya, Shiela Mae Guerra, Gillian Vasquez, and Kristel Jean Magtira.

Medical marijuana bill refiled at House GMA News Online 1st Jul 2019
The measure seeking the legalization of medical marijuana has been refiled at the House of Representatives on Monday, the first day of the 18th Congress. Dr. Socorro Reyes, the policy adviser of Isabela Representative Antonio Albano, was among those who turned up early at the House to file the newly-elected congressman's bill, which was authored by his brother, former congressman and now Governor Rodolfo Albano III, in the previous Congress. A booth has been set up at the House's South Wing Lobby for lawmakers and their staff who want to file their bills and resolutions as early as the first day of the new Congress." The bill has been filed since 2014. So this is the fifth year, this is the third Congress. And I have with me the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS), parents and patients of those who need medical cannabis because they have been very sick and they have always looked forward getting medical marijuana for their illnesses," Reyes told reporters in an interview.

Recto to push for ‘One Town, One Doctor’ bill Manila Bulletin News 1st Jul 2019
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto Monday refiled his “One Town, One Doctor” bill, a novel scholarship program in which government finances the schooling of one medical student from a town – on the condition that when he becomes a doctor, he will serve his town for four years. Recto said the program addresses a key mandate of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act. But sending more public doctors to rural areas—where latest data pegs an average one physician for every 33,000 inhabitants—is hobbled by a “range of disincentives” such as high cost of medical schooling, low pay, and absence of opportunities for further training, among others. Recto said this could be partially solved by setting up a “conveyor of talent” in which a town would never run out of local-born doctors who will serve his townmates.

Price controls on drugs are not a good idea Business World 28th Jun 2019
The Philippine’s government is grappling with the problem of making healthcare affordable and accessible. Health Secretary Francisco Duque recently announced that the Department of Health intends to move forward with a new round of Maximum Drug Retail Price (MDRP) cuts, which limit the final price of medicines. The cuts will likely be implemented from July this year. Drug price controls aim to improve healthcare outcomes for Filipinos by reducing costs and lowering out of pocket expenditure. Drug price controls are not new to the Philippines, with two rounds of price caps being mandated in 2009 and 2007. His policy approach should take into account the ample evidence from India, another middle-income country struggling with health costs.

Metro Pacific Hospital makes tender offer for shares in Makati Medical owner Business World 28th Jun 2019
Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc. (MPHHI) has made an offer to buy P2.261 billion worth of shares from Medical Doctors Inc. (MDI) to boost its stake in the latter to 49.9%. “MPHHI has offered to acquire up to 563,000 outstanding common shares of MDI which represent approximately 16.6% of the total outstanding shares of MDI which will bring the Offerror’s ownership to no more than 49.9%,” MDI said in a notice to shareholders published Friday in a newspaper. MPHHI is offering to buy the shares at P4,016.00 each.

UHC law a big leap towards reforming health care system: NEDA Philippine News Agency 18th Jun 2019
MANILA -- The country’s chief economist is pushing more reforms to ensure the smooth implementation of Universal Health Care (UHC) law, considered a big leap towards improving the country’s health care system. In an explainer, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia noted that while the law already provides the mechanisms to improve health care services in the country, the actual rollout by all those concerned is crucial, starting with agency budgets. “The DOH (Department of Health), for one, must efficiently utilize its budget to develop and strengthen health infrastructure and human resources,” Pernia, noting that the agency’s budget utilization rate was only 88 percent in 2017 based on the 2018 budget brochure of DOH. Pernia, also National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General, said the function of local government units (LGUs) to provide health services, which was devolved through the Local Government Code of 1991, has not reflected in their health spending. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the health spending of LGUs comprised only 20 percent of overall government spending on health in 2017. “The enactment of the UHC law is a defining moment for the Philippine health system. We, at NEDA, are optimistic that its implementation will open the doors for more reforms that will improve the health of Filipino people,” Pernia said.

PhilHealth withdraws accreditation of WellMed Dialysis Center in QC Eagle News 18th Jun 2019
The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation on Tuesday, June 18, withdrew its accreditation of WellMed Dialysis Center. PhilHealth said it made the move in light of the ghost dialysis mess that has led to charges being filed against  one of its owners, Bryan Sy, and the two whistleblowers, Edwin Roberto and Liezel Aileen de Leon. Charges were filed against seven other WellMed employees. “PhilHealth accreditation is a privilege granted to qualified health care providers for them to participate in the National Health Insurance Program, and can be withdrawn at the discretion of the Corporation after due evaluation of their capacity and integrity,” PhilHealth said. It said Philhealth has “ceased paying the said dialysis center for their claims” prior to the withdrawal. PhilHealth also urged qualified beneficiaries who are availing of WellMed’s services to transfer to other accredited facilities.

Lacson bares Duque’s ‘conflict of interest’ BusinessMirror 20th Jun 2019
Apparently stung by Health Secretary Francisco Duque III’s remarks that he had no business dredging up past events to taint an “unblemished” 35 years of public service, Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday made public a document showing Duque allowed Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) to rent in 2018 a family-owned building in Dagupan for over P529,000 a month. Guesting at the Senate Kapihan, Lacson shared with the media the document showing PhilHealth’s Region 1 office had rented three floors of a building owned by the Educational and Medical Development Corp. (EDMC) on Francisco Duque Jr. Street, Tapuac District in Dagupan, from January 1 to December 31, 2018

Singapore

Lonza to buy drug production facility in Switzerland from Novartis The Business Times 1st Jul 2019
CHEMICALS and biotech company Lonza Group will purchase a sterile drug product fill-and-finish facility in Stein, Switzerland, from Novartis. Lonza, which has a secondary listing on the Singapore Exchange (SGX), said in an SGX filing on Monday afternoon that it had entered into a binding contractual commitment for the acquisition, but did not disclose the purchase price. The transaction is expected to complete within the coming months. Lonza will use the facility to manufacture drug products for Novartis, as well as to provide production capacity for its additional customers.

ISEC Healthcare calls for trading halt pending announcement The Business Times 1st Jul 2019
MEDICAL eye-care firm ISEC Healthcare requested a trading halt on Monday morning after the market opened, pending the release of an announcement. The Catalist-listed firm’s latest bourse filing was on May 9, when it released its annual report and first-quarter financial results. Its net profit for the quarter ended March 31 rose 6 per cent to S$2.2 million, on the back of increased business activities. ISEC Healthcare offers specialist eye-care services at its surgical centers in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca in Malaysia. Shares of ISEC Healthcare last traded on Friday at S$0.34.

Insurance linked to high medical inflation: Experts The Straits Times 28th Jun 2019
Overuse of insurance and pricey doctors in private practice could be reasons for the high inflation in the healthcare sector, said experts. Medical cost inflation here rose 10 per cent last year, 10 times more than the Singapore economy's estimated 2018 inflation rate of 1 per cent, according to Mercer Marsh Benefits 2019 Medical Trends Around the World report. The headline inflation officially came in at 0.4 per cent. Explaining the cause of high medical inflation, Professor Eric Finkelstein from the Duke-NUS' Health Services and Systems Research Programme said: "In other sectors, people buy less when the economy is bad. But in healthcare, the demand never goes down and tends to increase with ageing, rising rates of chronic disease, the availability of new treatments and, most importantly, health insurance."

IEV Holdings in talks to diversify into healthcare business The Business Times 25th Jun 2019
Catalist-listed IEV Holdings is currently in talks with "certain unrelated third parties" for a transaction that may result in a diversification into the healthcare and wellness business. Among other things, the deal is subject to due diligence and valuation, as well as approvals from the relevant authorities and shareholders. The company added that there is no certainty or assurance that a transaction will arise from these discussions, and that it will make appropriate announcements when there are material developments on this matter.

Novena Global Lifecare to set up US$150m Sino-Singapore healthcare fund Singapore Business Review 25th Jun 2019
Novena Global Lifecare to set up US$150m Sino-Singapore healthcare fund. It will invest in medical services, biomedical projects, mature drugs and precision medicine companies. Integrated medical healthcare and aesthetic firm Novena Global Lifecare announced that Sinopharm Capital Co. and Cedarlake Capital Group have achieved a strategic new money investment of up to $27.4m (US$20m) into the company as part of for its latest growth fundraising. Independently, the three parties will set up create a new Sino-Singapore Healthcare Fund with a target size of setpoint value of $203.7m (US$150m) which will be invested in a portfolio of companies involved in medical services, biomedical projects, mature drugs and precision medicine. Sinopharm Capital is an equity investment institution centering on healthcare, which is founded by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) and Sinopharm Capital’s management team. Cedarlake Capital is an international private equity firm specializing on cross-border investment and advisory.

Singapore ranked No. 3 in survey on use of AI in healthcare The Straits Times 20th Jun 2019
Singapore lags behind China and Saudi Arabia in poll of medical professionals in 15 countries. Healthcare professionals in Singapore are using artificial intelligence (AI) for clinical diagnosis more than their counterparts in most other countries, except China and Saudi Arabia. "Technology will never replace the human touch, but AI can take over mundane tasks and free up medical professionals. This can help to improve precision, efficiency and speed, leading to better outcomes for patients." - Ms Clarke.

Weekly dengue cases in Singapore spike to highest in more than 3 years CNA 18th Jun 2019
SINGAPORE: There were a total of 468 reported dengue cases in the week ending Jun 15, the highest since March 2016, according to data by the National Environment Agency (NEA). "The number of weekly reported dengue cases have more than quadrupled in the past three months," the agency said on its website. As of 3pm on Monday (Jun 17), there were 5,261 reported cases, more than the 3,285 cases reported in the whole of 2018 and 2,772 cases in all of 2017. The number of active dengue clusters has also more than doubled in the past month to 112, as of Monday. There are 31 high-risk areas with 10 or more cases, including areas in Woodlands, Chai Chee and Geylang.  Parts of Bedok, Jurong East and Hougang are also among the high-risk areas. You can find the full list, including the streets and blocks, on NEA's website.   Four people have died from dengue this year amid the spike in the number of cases. In May, a 63-year-old man became the fourth person to die from dengue in 2019.

Thailand

Genomic Medicine Increasing In Thailand Industry Herald 24 19th Jun 2019
Thailand is one of the leading countries in the world when it comes to the healthcare industry. The country has well-developed facilities to handle and hold all the high quality care taking place. Thailand also has a huge role in the ASEAN market committee due to its strong presence and economic stance. One of the new developments in the field  is the fact that the country is now concerned with engaging in genomic medicine and research. Genomic medicine focuses on the study of strands of DNA to understand how the human body works and what are the dangers in the person. Different diseases can be understood and dealt with using this technique. This has pushed the country to enforce departments that contain these tools needed and provide the right type of facilities and talents. The country was able to collect data from almost 50,000 citizens regarding their genomic DNA strands. More updates are yet to take place in the field making Thailand the leading in the world. This was commented on by Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn which is the Public Health Minister of Thailand by saying, “We have already secured a budget of Bt4.47 billion for the five-year Integrated Genomics Thailand Plan. Genomic technologies will allow more efficient diagnoses. We believe genomics has the power the improve patients’ quality of life and make a difference in Thailand’s healthcare sector. We trust that tangible results will be visible within the next year.”

Private hospitals briefed on notification of drug prices, medical fees National News Bureau of Thailand 19th Jun 2019
BANGKOK, 18 June 2019 (NNT) - The Department of Internal Trade today invited representatives of 353 private hospitals nationwide to a briefing on the public notification of the prices of drugs, medical supplies and medical services to patients are treated at hospitals. Internal Trade Department Director General Wichai Phochanakit said the private hospitals need to notify the public of the prices of drugs, which should not include the hospital room, air-conditioning or pharmacist fees. Some hospitals were reported to charge the prices of drugs 8,000-16,000% higher than the average prices. The private hospitals are currently required to submit the buying and selling prices of drugs to the Department of Internal Trade by July 12. The prices will be displayed on the department’s website while a QR Code will be provided for people to check the prices at the private hospitals. The department is not yet taking measures to enforce the setting of the maximum prices of drugs, though some private hospitals may have already overcharged them. The maximum prices of drugs might be legally enforced if those hospitals continue to overcharge. Any change in the prices of drugs is to be publicly notified 15 days in advance so that the new prices will be updated online. The hospitals are to notify the fees for initial medical treatment, so patients can decide in advance. That is in line with standard procedures of the World Health Organization.

Tests find food supplements laced with dangerous drugs sold online The Nation 14th Jun 2019
Several Supplements that claim to help with weight loss or sexual potency and distributed via popular online platforms contain dangerous drugs.These supplements are sold online via Lazada, WeMall, Shopee, 411estore as well as Watsons, adding that apart from risking their health, buyers may also face legal action if they are found to have these items in their possession. The Foundation for Consumers called on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday to impose the harshest penalties possible on the sellers. Three products – sold under S-Line, Chaliew2 and Deli by NQ Brand – were found to contain the psychoactive agent sibutramine, which is usually used to treat depression. The side-effects are high blood pressure, risk of stroke and heart problems. Under the law, sellers of sibutramine can face a jail term of four to 20 years plus fines of Bt400,000 to Bt2 million. Those found to be in possession of the drug are liable to a jail term of one to five years and/or a fine of Bt10,000 to Bt100,000. Consumers can also face a jail term of up to three years and/or a maximum fine of Bt60,000.

Smoking at home to be banned Bangkok Post 21st Jun 2019
A law prohibiting smoking at home will come into effect on Aug 20 in a bid to reduce deaths caused by second-hand smoke. Smokers will be given 90 days to refrain from the habit, which puts relatives living under the same roof at serious health risk, according to the 2019 Family Development and Protection Act announced in the Royal Gazette.

Health Ministry postpones pot farm plan Bangkok Post 19th Jun 2019
The Public Health Ministry has postponed growing marijuana for medical and research purposes due to a delay in the paperwork required to allow two universities to legally grow marijuana in the Northeast. The farming is now expected to begin next week or early next month.

Dengue fever epidemic declared Bangkok Post 14th Jun 2019
The Department of Disease Control on Friday announced a dengue haemorrhagic fever epidemic this year as there have been 28,785 patients, 43 of whom died. Dr Preecha Prempree, deputy director-general of the department, said that the figures were from Jan 1 to June 11, when the number of patients doubled the five-year average. The situation is the same in Thailand's neighbouring countries thanks to a similar climate and conditions, he said. He attributed the epidemic to failure to control mosquito larvae.

Vietnam

Radioactive substance shortage takes toll on PET/CT scanning in Ho Chi Minh City Tuoi Tre News 28th Jun 2019
Cancer patients in Ho Chi Minh City are now required to travel a long way to receive PET/CT scans, as the city’s only machine capable of producing the radioactive substance needed for the scans has been out of order for over a month.There are three locations in Ho Chi Minh City that offer PET/CT scanning - Cho Ray Hospital in District 5, Nhan Dan 115 Hospital in District 10, and 175 Military Hospital in Go Vap District. Of the three hospitals, only Cho Ray has a facility capable of producing FDG. For the last month, however, that facility has been out of order. In the meantime, patients in the southern metropolis have had to travel to the central city of Da Nang or Hanoi, located 1,000km and 1,700km apart, respectively, to undergo the process, sending their medical costs soaring.

First fixed blood donation site opens in Hà Nội’s Old Quarter Vietnam News Agency 27th Jun 2019
The National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) has opened its first fixed blood donation site at Hoàn Kiếm Medical Central – No 26 Lương Ngọc Quyến Street in the heart of Hà Nội’s Old Quarter last weekend. The site opens daily and is expected to make it more convenient for people to donate blood regularly, said director of the NIHBT Bạch Quốc Khánh. The site opens daily and is expected to make it more convenient for people to donate blood regularly, said director of the NIHBT Bạch Quốc Khánh. The NIHBT and Hà Nội’s Health Department plans to open other fixed blood donation sites in other districts including Đống Đa and Thanh Xuân.

Gaining the trust of people is more important than vaccination records Vietnam News Agency 27th Jun 2019
The regulation that requires parents in Hà Nội to provide documentation stating their children’s vaccination records for preschool entry from 2019-20 school year have caused a commotion. It is supposed to be a necessary rule to establish an immune barrier to protect the health of children, particularly given the spread of the trend of not vaccinating. However, it seems it is not only health at risk, but education as well. According to Trần Đắc Phu, head of the Department of Preventive Medicine under the Ministry of Health, if the vaccination rate in the community is between 90 and 95 per cent, the risk of the disease spreading becomes highly unlikely. Although the country’s vaccination rate has reached more than 95 per cent, there are still thousands of children who have not been vaccinated or fully vaccinated each year, he said. While the requirements got the approval from many parents, some still opposed the implementation of the new regulations. “It was unfair for them as the vaccination does not depend on the children but their parents,” she said. Huệ said there were several reasons some children could not meet requirements like they are too young to be vaccinated or those with certain medical conditions or weak immunity.

Top legislator hails UNICEF’s support of child protection in Việt Nam Vietnam News Agency 25th Jun 2019
Chairwoman of the National Assembly (NA) Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân hosted a reception for Chief Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Việt Nam Rana Flowers in Hà Nội on Tuesday. The NA leader highly appreciated the support of the organization in protecting children’s rights in Việt Nam. The bilateral co-operation programs aim to reach all children, especially the most vulnerable ones, ensuring they have equal opportunities for development. This year, the UNICEF wants to co-operate with Việt Nam to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the convention. Chairwoman Ngân said Việt Nam would be ready to co-ordinate with the UNICEF to mark this event, and the country would send delegates to participate in the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September 2019.

WB loan to help improve grassroots health services in Việt Nam Vietnam News Agency 25th Jun 2019
The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors on Thursday approved a US $80-million loan to help Việt Nam improve the quality of basic health services and access to care, especially in disadvantaged areas. The Investing and Innovating for Grassroots Health Service Delivery Project is designed to enable commune health stations (CHS) to start detecting and managing non-communicable diseases while strengthening their existing role in controlling infectious diseases and providing essential maternal, newborn and child health care services. It is expected to benefit around 9.2 million people in 13 provinces. The project is designed to target these groups by closing remaining gaps in access to basic healthcare while expanding new services to address emerging demographic and epidemiological challenges.

Roads may be rare in this Vietnamese commune, but immunization rate tops 97% Tuoi Tre News 14th Jun 2019
A remote commune in Vietnam’s southernmost province of Ca Mau has not let a lack of infrastructure stop nearly 100 percent of its residents from making sure their children make it to the nearest medical center for vaccinations. Inaccessibility, often caused by poor infrastructure, is one of the main reasons why immunization rates in Vietnam’s most rural areas remain low, but the people of Lam Hai Commune, Nam Can District, Ca Mau refused to believe that a shortage of roads would mean a lack of vaccines for their children.

New M&A boom in Vietnam's pharmaceutical sector VietNamNet 3rd Jul 2019
After two years of delay, Vinapharm resumed its plan to sell shares to attract capable investors. The Ministry of Health (MOH) plans to divest 35 percent of shares in 2019 and another 30 percent in 2020. The divestment of Vinapharm will be a great opportunity for foreign investors to penetrate the Vietnamese pharmaceutifical sector. Michal Jacob from KPMG Vietnam commented that the divestment will catch the attention of strategic investors with powerful financial capability who are seeking opportunities to approach the Vietnamese market. Vinapharm is one of the best pharmaceutical firms holding strategic positions in the market, with large distribution networks. It is one of very few Vietnamese companies carrying out R&D and it serves as the ‘backbone’ of the industry. Vinapharm is a large corporation with 23 subsidiaries and affiliates. It had an IPO in 2017.

Time for locals to enjoy export-quality food Vietnam News Agency 27th Jun 2019
It’s time local people had access to food products that met the same high standards as those the country exported, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam said yesterday at a meeting in Hà Nội. According to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyễn Xuân Cường, in the first half of the year, co-ordination among the Government, ministries, sectors, localities and social organisations had brought about significant and positive developments for food safety. In the last six months of the year, the Deputy Prime Minister asked agencies to strengthen inspections on food safety, especially at small and individual food sales and processing units. A survey, which interviewed more than 300 people aged 18 to 60 in the country's biggest cities Hà Nội and HCM City, said 86 per cent identified food safety as the most pressing social concern.